For better or for worse, Elijah Bynum’s “Magazine Dreams” is one of the most talked about films of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The dark character study, which stars Jonathan Majors as an aspiring bodybuilder battling serious demons, opened to strong reviews on Friday night. However, the judges of the US drama competition walked out of the screening due to a technical fault that prevented a deaf judge from watching it with subtitles. The incident sparked a larger debate about accessibility at film festivals, and the jury eventually issued an open letter asking Sundance to step up its efforts to create an inclusive experience.
As other films compete to find accommodations for deaf audiences ahead of their premieres, speculation is rife about the role filmmakers play in deciding whether to include subtitles in their films. While some directors may object to their films being screened with open captioning, Bynum is not one of them. In an interview with IndieWire, Bynum clarified that the incident was purely a technical glitch and not an intentional act by the creative team.
“No, no, of course not,” Bynum said when asked if he objected to his film being shown in open captioning. “We’ve been told that we’re going to have a device that will allow anyone who is hard of hearing to get subtitles. I’m not sure if these devices or a single device malfunctioned last night. And they say we’re going to have a private experience where we’re going to find out. And hopefully you’ll open the subtitles so you don’t have this problem again. It was quite disappointing to hear that.”
Kate Erbland of IndieWire wrote in her Sundance review of “Magazine Dreams”: “What Majors does here is how raw and vulnerable and brave not only his craft is, but his craft. body, there is something to see. This is true artistry, absolute commitment, the kind of profound self-control that Killian himself could only dream of. For Majors, it’s simply the next step in an upwardly mobile career. How lucky we are to be a part of this particular journey, how lucky we are to see the next big push.”